Happy Holidays From Cohere: Thanks, Reflection, Future

As the year comes to a close I wanted to take some time to thank you, reflect, and give you a preview of what’s coming in 2015.

Thank You.

I never say it often enough but you make Cohere possible. You choose us. You work with us. You laugh with us. You grow with us. Maybe you’ve been a member for 5 years or for 5 days. You matter. You are important.

Without you, Cohere is just an empty shell, a real estate transaction and a line item on someone’s budget. WITH you, we become a community, a pivot point for new friendships, and a platform for personal growth and change.

Let’s Reflect.

In December of 2009 we started out coworking in a donated reception area once/week. On the 5th week we ran out of chairs (14 of them) and broke the internet.RMI2 coworking test In March 2010, we opened our first location in Old Town with 4 members. Coworking-Cohere

In January 2012 we moved to the Howes location. Last December we had 39 members and 1 location. This December we have 75 members and 2 locations. That’s double. That’s huge. And we’re set to double again in 2015. Whether you told a friend about Cohere or posted an update on Facebook, many of our new members come from word of mouth and it makes a difference.2014-11-07 13.17.06

What’s Next.

2015 will bring Cohere to its final space frontier: Cohere Bandwidth, shared rehearsal space for musicians inside the amazing artist ecosystem that is the Downtown Artery. We’re looking forward to creative new connections between the artists of the Artery, the musicians of Bandwidth and the nerds of Cohere.

While Bandwidth may be located at the intersection of Linden and Jefferson we’re really at the crossroads of combining art, music and brains in brand new ways.

Here’s to 2015, may it bring you meaningful connections, amazing independence, kindness and love.

Love, Angel

2014-11-21 10.20.46

Ps. Hat tip to Julie who’s been with us every step of the way from our first pre-community meeting to today.

 

Ridiculously Productive Meetings

FullSizeRender

I bet you never wonder how 3 people with full-time jobs manage to shoe-horn in the creation of a shared rehearsal space for Fort Collins in their “spare” time. If you’ve been following us, you might wonder why I would brag about our ridiculously productive meetings for Cohere Bandwidth when we’ve been at this for almost 2 years. If you must know, most of that 2 years was spent waiting on real estate with very few DONES getting checked off of our TO-DOS. Skip below to the COMPLETION step if you are skimming.

But now that the space is REAL and under construction we spend every Friday going from Oh Fuck! to Hell Yes! Here is our extremely effective meeting process:

  1. AGENDA: Anyone can create or add to the agenda. We do this in a shared google doc that everyone can edit. The doc contains ALL of the agendas with the most recent at the top. The agenda is usually created the night before or the morning of each meeting. We’re agile and quick so it wouldn’t make sense to create an agenda further in advance than that.
  2. SCHEDULE: Meetings are always at 10am on Fridays at Cohere and last 1.5 hours. The person who is late has to get coffee for everyone else.FullSizeRender (1)
  3. AIRING OF GRIEVANCES: At the start of each meeting we get our feelings out. Yep, you read that right. If anyone is frustrated or flabbergasted or just plain giddy, we talk it out BEFORE we task. This step is key. Due to the nature of our structure, we can’t be together or even talk every day so it’s important to make a real connection to one another before we start doling out chores.
  4. ORDER: We go through the agenda in order. Always. We rarely add anything to the agenda during the meeting.
  5. TIME: Never, ever, ever put an estimated time for discussion on an agenda item. This makes no sense.
  6. COMPLETION: We complete any tasks that come up IN THE MEETING. Example, if Julie needs to email someone about a radio interview then Shane and I talk about a graphic design task or similar. This allows everyone to be productive during the entire meeting, which is something I never got to experience in corporate life.
  7. DELEGATE: If any tasks remain, they are completed directly after the meeting ends or get shifted to me (Angel) if possible since I have the most spare time to complete things. Shane will often do heavy duty graphic design tasks outside of the meeting as it’s part of his creative process.

So there. Now you know how we make the most out of our 12 hours/month together.

Does your team have an unconventional meeting process? Tell us all about it so we can steal your tips for our next meeting.

Writers, Stop Giving It Away

Guest post from Cohere member Heidi

First, I’m going to share a quote that sums up my thoughts on the issue of writers doing work for free. A week ago, Rick Reilly, sportswriter and ESPN star, was asked to deliver the final commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism. He said the following:

“When you get out there, all I ask is that you: DON’T WRITE FOR FREE! Nobody asks strippers to strip for free, doctors to doctor for free or professors to profess for free. Have some pride! What you know how to do now is a skill that 99.9 percent of the people don’t have. If you do it for free, they won’t respect you in the morning. Or the next day. Or the day after that. You sink everybody’s boat in the harbor, not just yours. So just DON’T!” (Read more: Husted: Alum Rick Reilly puts CU J-school to bed – The Denver Post)

Here’s what I would like to add to Reilly’s eloquent statement.

Think about your future and don’t mess with my present

Young or new writers often give away their work. Perhaps it’s because they are building a portfolio or maybe they’re just overly eager to see their byline. Whatever the reason, writing for free is bad.

First, if you write for free, you are setting a precedent establishing that your work is not worth real money. When you decide to start charging for your time and work, you’ve already established that your price is free. Last, but far from least, as Reilly points out above, by writing for free you are hurting other writers. Working for free undercuts our industry, period.

Trade is not free, but tread carefully

A trade is only legitimate when both parties are truly getting equal value from the exchange. Some writers are happy to free write articles in exchange for hotel stays or other travel freebies. I know writers who write reviews for free products; this is popular with mommy bloggers. While this isn’t my preferred type of payment, this is a legitimate trade.

I would caution writers against doing frequent trade. I promise that the mortgage company will not take the organic oven cleaner you got as trade in lieu of a house payment, no matter how good it is.

Boost your portfolio without undercutting yourself or others

Look, I know it’s hard to break in to this industry, and believe me when I tell you that you’ll always feel as though you are “breaking in.” Making a living as a writer is tough, but I do have some tips on getting clips without undercutting your future or my present.

Find a nonprofit and DONATE your time – My first official writing gig was producing a quarterly newsletter for a small, nonprofit organization. I wrote all the articles, took the photographs and even did the design and layout work. And yes, I did this for free because I believed in the cause, but, above all, I needed clips. Happily, these clips helped me secure my first paying writing job at a local newspaper. If you must work for free, support a non-profit or charity that you care deeply about.

Blog, blog, blog – If you have a blog that is published and updated weekly with well-written work, then *presto* you have clips. Here’s a tip: build a professional looking blog by paying the small fee associated with removing the /wordpress or /blogspot from your url.

Guest blogging is another great way to get clips and to establish yourself as a sought after writer. Again, limit the number of guest posts you write; there are bloggers who will take advantage of free work as well.

Don’t do it alone – Networking with other writers is priceless. Join a writers group, join a writers association, or join an online industry organization such as Media Bistro and Avant Guild. Believe it or not, Twitter has an active group of writers, and is a good place to connect. Coworking at a facility where there are other writers is also a wise idea. Find out more about coworking here.

By surrounding yourself with people you want to emulate, good things will happen.

For the rest of you

It may sound like I’m picking on writers, so I will leave you with this:  PEOPLE, STOP ASKING WRITERS TO WRITE FOR FREE. You wouldn’t expect your dentist to fill a cavity for free or your accountant to do your taxes for a box of chocolates. The fact is that you can’t fill your own cavity and you aren’t good at doing your taxes. You are also a terrible writer – that’s why you’ve asked someone else to do it – so pay them!

-Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is the Mayor of HeidiTown and a working writer. You may follow her on Twitter or join the HeidiTown block party on Facebook.

Image credit: photosteve1o1

 

New Book! Coworking: How Freelancers Escape The Coffee Shop Office

Coworking: How Freelancers Escape The Coffee Shop OfficeFast on the heels of the first-ever ebook for coworking space catalysts comes another riveting read…made for coworkers by coworkers!

Coworking: How Freelancers Escape the Coffee Shop Office (and Tales of Community from Independents Around the World) is designed to help the mobile workforce and small business owners escape the coffee shop or home office, and embrace the coworking movement.

“Anyone can locate a desk and a free internet connection, but coworking provides more,” said Angel Kwiatkowski, the book’s co-author and Madame of Cohere. “It allows independent professionals to participate in a global community that is part support system, part educational network, and part creative think tank.”

If you’ve ever tried to explain coworking to a skeptical audience, and wished for a resource that would convey all the benefits along with reasons to give it a try, this book is for you!

Coworking: How Freelancers Escape the Coffee Shop Office includes vital tips for finding and participating in a coworking community as well as over 30 stories from independent professionals all over the world that are embracing this new style of work.

“Today’s mobile workforce is savvy, but their options for workspace and community are limited,” said Beth Buczynski, the book’s co-author and coworking blogger. “They are desperate for something better than the same old networking events and meetups. Coworking recognizes that freelancers can accomplish more through collaboration, and gives them the solid platform they need to grow and succeed.

Check out a preview of the book here, or download your own copy today!

Two Quick Fixes for the Worst Networking Events

Two Quick Fixes for the Worst Networking Events

I’ve attended my fair share of networking events in the last year, and I just want to go on the record as saying:

Most networking events are a waste of my time and yours.

I’ve been to networking events for web people, sustainable people, people with “integrity,” early risers, late nighters, coffee drinkers, tea enthusiasts, women, pet lovers, commerce lunchers, bar hoppers and more.

Here are a few examples of why those events are falling short.

Treating people like children

I got an email alerting me to a new “networking” function today. Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I went to the website to see what it was all about. One of the activities listed on an agenda was to draw names out of a hat to get a lunch date. Now, keep in mind that this is purportedly a group of professionals who want to get to know one another better. The last time I had to pick a team out of a hat, I was in 4th grade. This activity totally devalues the most important part of the coffee meeting: the 2 people in it! I’d much rather have one meaningful conversation with someone I care about or WANT to care about than five quicky-converations.

QUICK FIX: Look for events that don’t have an agenda but rather a simple theme. For instance, in our Business of Freelance/Pancake Eating mornings, we share a meal together and answer a question that I prepare in advance (in my car, on my way to breakfast). Last month we shared what inspires us. That’s it…no names in hats. Our group grew from 4 pancake eaters to 14 in just a few months. And with no gimmicks.

Exclusivity falsified as integrity

I once went to a networking function called “integrity networking.” As Cohere member Skippy would later point out, “you should probably avoid groups that claim to be ethical right in their title—if they have to overtly say they are ethical, then they probably aren’t.” At the event, everyone had their chance to give an elevator speech, an activity that makes me want to turn to liquid and slide through the floorboards. After I sat through elevator speech Round 2 (in the same meeting), I was handed an application and asked to pay more than a hundred dollars for the privilege of hanging out with Fort Collins’ finest integritarians. Yikes. I’d much rather find authenticity and integrity on a person-by-person basis than go to an event (falsely) promoting integrity.

QUICK FIX: Don’t pay a dime for a networking group. Your money is better spent bringing a 6-pack of beer to our monthly NoCoFat meetup (combined with Articulate City this week!). We keep Cohere open late, member Kevin brings his laptop speakers, and we drink beer, eat chips and talk. Just talk. No funny stuff. There’s no fee to get in, no application and no exchanging of meaningless business cards.

What’s been your experience with networking events? Which ones do you love?

Image Credit: Flickr – Official GDC

Welcoming New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space

If you’re a coworking space catalyst or a coworking space owner, you should probably have a welcome mat in front of your space.

Okay—not a literal welcome mat.
Welcome New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space
I’m talking about making new members feel welcome by doing the basic “host”-type duties in your space: greeting potential & new members, giving tours of the space, introducing them to other coworkers, etc.

While these my seem like no-brainer things to do, I’ve discovered that in some coworking spaces, these things are simply not happening. Although not every coworking space has a dedicated host, for those spaces that do have a host, the following to-dos are musts. I’d venture that it’s a real challenge to get a community to grow—and grow bountifully—if coworkers don’t feel like they belong. The good news is that it’s fairly easy for you to help new members feel welcome.

In my mind, the following actions are musts:

  • Greet potential & new coworkers. When someone new walks into the space, is it clear where they should go or who they should talk to?
  • Provide a tour of the space. No matter how small the space may be, provide a tour to help new members feel comfortable and oriented. Heck, introduce them to the coffee-maker!
  • Connect them online. Provide the wireless name and password…and remind them of the website and any other communication tools available. For example, we use IRC at Cohere…old school geekdom!
  • Introduce new members to current members. With respect to people’s work and time, it’s amazingly helpful to introduce new members to current members—especially between members you think might have skills, profession or hobbies in common. This, too, helps foster community!
  • Orient them to the neighborhood. Do the current coworkers have a favorite lunch spot? Let the new member know what amenities, restaurants and other resources are near the coworking space.
  • Other community connections. Is there a calendar of events for the coworking space? Or a list of local meetup groups & events? Or simply a list of all the members? Show the new member! They can then explore these resources on their own time and get more comfortable with the community they’ve just joined.

The idea is to make new members feel comfortable. Imagine how intimidating it is to be the n00b in a group of people who already know each other and are established in their work and social patterns. This can be challenging, even for the most extroverted of people. Fortunately, it takes only a few simple actions to help welcome new members.

If you’re a catalyst or owner, do you have other or different ideas about how to welcome your new members? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Coworking is Not a Frat House (and the Evidence to Prove It)

There is one particular stereotype about coworking that bothers me. It’s the hackneyed idea that a coworking space is simply a “frat house,” “romper room,” or “social hour” for freelancers and independents.

Yikes. How totally inaccurate that stereotype is.

Not only is the success and level of productivity at Cohere anecdotal evidence of why this myth is untrue, but there’s also hard data to make the case.

Deskmag.com coworking survey

The Evidence

You may have already seen the recent global coworking survey—the first of its kind, seeking to gather data about coworkers and coworking space owners. Deskmag is digging into the survey data and sharing insights about many aspects of coworking. (See the end of the post for links to the Deskmag articles.)

Here are some relevant stats from the survey that dispel the “frat house” myth that often informs stereotypes people have about coworking spaces:

  • Connections: 43% of respondents reported meeting one to three helpful acquaintances within a two-month period, while another 43% have found four or more such connections
  • Income: 25% of all coworkers indicated that they earned more than the national average income
  • Motivation: 85% of respondents are more motivated and have better interaction with other people since moving into a coworking space
  • Teamwork: 57% now work in teams more often
  • Work/life balance: 60% organize their working day better so they can relax more at home

These stats don’t show unmotivated nor unsuccessful freelancers. Coworking isn’t a rowdy frat house.

Community…and Work-Life Balance

The coworking survey reveals that one of the big draws to coworking is the community and collaboration that happens in a coworking space. And “community” doesn’t translate into “frat house” or “social hour.” On the contrary, one of the most powerful aspects of coworking community is to connect with other people while giving—and receiving—value and benefits.

While there are moments or afternoons that feel more “social” at Cohere—for example, when coworkers share funny stories, start a room-wide conversation, or head out to grab a mid-afternoon snack—it’s those moments that make the Cohere community what it is: a place for work AND social productivity—a place for a balanced work life.

If you want to read more insights from the survey, check out:
Part 1 – 1st Global Coworking Study: What Coworkers Want
Part 2 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworker’s Profile
Part 3 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworking Spaces
Part 4 – 1st Global Coworking Study: Female Coworker vs. Male Coworker

Image Credit: Deskmag

Why Niche and How to Get Started

Niche statements for freelancers

So…how’s that niche statement for your business coming along? “What’s a niche statement?!” you ask? Well, I suggested a couple weeks ago that finding your niche should be a New Year’s resolution. And I’m still curious if you’ve thought about yours.

Why nicheing out matters.

This may seem like an exercise in semantics or in marketing—but I promise you, having a niche statement will help you grow your business. How? Because not only does it help you narrow in on the core of what you currently do or want to be doing—it also helps other people remember and understand what you do. When you can succinctly and easily tell someone you’ve just met what it is you do, they’re more likely to remember it—and keep you top of mind the next time they need a designer/developer/writer/etc.—than if you spend 5 or 6 minutes fumbling around, trying to explain your business.

Nicheing out isn’t easy—but here’s how to get started.

Why do you think copywriters charge a bundle to help a company write a tagline? The tagline may be only a handful of words—but those words are so telling, so important, that it takes crafting, honing, splicing & dicing to get just the right tagline. Your niche statement will take a little bit of thought, too. On the start-up and marketing blog A Smart Bear, there’s a series of 10 questions start-ups should ask themselves monthly (and, honestly, most of these are questions you should consider asking yourself as a freelancer or independent, too). Go check out questions #1 and #2.  I think they’ll really help you create your niche statement.

And it will behoove you to think about this…because there will soon be a wall in Cohere that will feature your photo, name and niche statement. (Sounds awesome, right? It will be!) This wall will offer another way for you to get to know your coworkers. And, perhaps, get new business.

Stay tuned to the blog on Wednesday for more about niche statements. And in the mean time, share in the comments section what your niche statement is. Not sure yet? Share what your struggle is in developing it. Who knows–other Cohere members just might be able to help you!

4 Creativity Resources for Freelancers

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants. A kick in the creativity pants, that is.

From working on a client project, to rethinking your niche, or in thinking up new ways to seek out clients, at times we need a creativity boost to get our minds thinking in fresh ways. One of the key benefits of coworking is collaborating and ideating with others—or, in other words, being creative with others. Whether you’re a designer, a writer, web developer, or consultant, here are some fun resources to get your creative juices flowing.

  • TED
    “Ideas Worth Spreading”

    Chances are good that you’re already familiar with TED, so this is no shocker. Have you explored Tedx (local) events—perhaps even one that might be near where you live? Hunt through the TED site, and you’re bound to bump into an inspiring talk.
    Tip: Try searching a keyword related to a project you’re currently working on. Watch the video and take notes. You never know how watching a video might infuse a new idea into your project!
  • Ideas Project
    “The home of big ideas about the future of communication and technology.”

    This well-designed site offers a place for people to share ideas about technology and communication. The site is a fascinating, creative way to map out ideas.
    Tip: Be sure to check out the Ideas Map – an incredible visualization of ideas.
  • Brainpicker
    “Curating eclectic interestingness from culture’s collective brain”

    Brainpicker is visually and mentally stimulating site that highlights innovative, fresh ideas. If you have a little bit of time to read, scout around this site or sign up for the weekly “best of” email.
    Tip: Surprisingly, even many of the ads along the sidebar link to interesting, worthwhile sites—so be sure to look at the ads, too. (When is THAT ever a tip?!)
  • The 99%
    “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”

    Developed by The Behance Network, The 99% is an information-rich source for ideas and articles about how to make ideas happen. It’s particularly focused on freelancers and small businesses.
    Tip: Click on “Tips” and browse articles by category. They’re also hosting a conference the first week in May in New York City–talk about a creativity brain melt!

This, of course, is a short list of sources for creative inspiration on the web. Do you have a go-to website when you need a creative kick in the pants? Share in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr – creativedc

Top Coworking Resources

Coworking resources | heather on Flickr

It’s time to get your bookmarks and RSS reader ready: here’s the shortlist of mega-helpful, super-fantastic online coworking links.

Instead of making you dig through the library stacks for coworking resources, I’ve compiled a list for you. Whether you’re a would-be coworking space catalyst, a coworker or simply interested in the idea of coworking, the following resources will give you a good idea about coworking, the people involved and how to get started.

Know other great blogs or resources? Leave a comment below!

Image Credit: Flicker – heather

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